Bluffton Exempted Village Schools: Focused on FIP

Remember the Bluffton Exempted Village Schools “FIP Me Baby” video that was making the rounds this time last year? It’s an office favorite at Battelle for Kids...We were all singing “FIP Me Baby” for weeks when we first saw the video.

Here it is again to refresh your memory (just don’t blame me if the tune is stuck in your head the rest of the week!).

I recently had the chance to chat with Bluffton’s Superintendent, Greg Denecker, about the district’s focus on FIP. According to him, the “FIP Me Baby” video was an idea that came from the district’s FIP Leadership Team. The team—which is comprised of Denecker, principals from each building, and 11 teachers—wanted to make sure they kicked off the FIP professional learning experience on a positive note.

“It was important to us that teachers see FIP professional learning as something that supports them because of all the other changes occurring at the moment,” Denecker said.

The FIP Leadership Team completed the foundational FIP modules first, and then rolled out the professional learning tools with staff last fall. Bluffton made it a point to give teachers time to really dig into formative instructional practices. They used two-hour delays and substitute teachers when necessary to make sure teachers were able to work through the online learning modules and collaborate to create clear learning targets. “Eventually, our regular staff meetings and team meetings after school turned into FIP meetings, too,” Denecker remarked.

Bluffton’s definitely doing something right. The 2012–2013 school year report cards were recently released and Bluffton’s performance index of 107.3 ranks in the top 6% of all districts statewide. The district also received an “A” in value-added under the state’s new A–F ranking system.

Denecker told me that they are continuing to focus on FIP this year. Teachers are working to create formative assessments that are aligned to the new standards and exploring how to use Ohio’s Instructional Improvement System (IIS) to analyze student progress.

“Overall, our focus on FIP has been a very positive thing for us,” said Denecker. “It’s created a collegial atmosphere that is really rewarding. For districts that haven’t focused on FIP, I have to say… We feel a lot better about where we are now than 15 months ago in terms of preparing our staff and students for success given all the changes through Race to the Top.”

Is your school focused on FIP this year? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter using #ohFIP.